Experience Ecuador's natural wonders and lively capital city on this 8-day adventure. You'll base yourself in Quito for most of the itinerary, exploring the city's museums and taking an Ecuadorian cooking class before heading out into the surrounding wilderness. Day-trip to beautiful Cuicocha Lagoon, shop for handicrafts in the famous Otavalo Market, and hike through the Mindo cloud forest, returning to Quito each evening. Then you'll move on to Cotopaxi National Park, sleeping in a traditional hacienda. Finish up the trip in Baños, where you'll feel the spray of magnificent waterfalls and enjoy sweeping views of the mountains before heading back to Quito for one last overnight.

Highlights

  • Learn how to prepare Ecuadorian cuisine in a cooking class
  • Explore the beautiful cloud forest of Mindo
  • Sleep in a traditional hacienda in Cotopaxi National Park
  • Zip-line or swing high over the gorgeous scenery of Baños
  • Drive along the awe-inspiring Avenue of Waterfalls

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito & Sightsee Quito
Day 2 Take a Cooking Class & Tour Mitad del Mundo  Quito
Day 3 Shop at Otavalo Market & Visit Cuicocha Lagoon  Quito
Day 4 Visit the Cloud Forest of Mindo  Quito
Day 5 Explore Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi
Day 6 Hike Around Quilotoa Lagoon  Baños
Day 7 Discover the Waterfalls & Landscapes of Baños Quito
Day 8 Depart Quito - End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito & Sightsee

View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano

Welcome to Ecuador! The entire city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 meters), it welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of marketplaces, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation hat makers, as well as a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene. Spend your first day in the country exploring the capital and sampling Ecuadorian cuisine, then get some rest.

Day 2: Take a Cooking Class & Tour Mitad del Mundo 

Equatorial Monument Mitad del Mundo
The Mitad del Mundo monument

Today, your guide will take you on a walking tour through the colonial center of Quito. You will visit the Plaza Grande and the beautiful churches La Compañía and La Basílica. Walk down the oldest street of Quito, La Ronda.

Next, you will participate in a cooking class. With a local chef, you'll shop for produce in a marketplace, then you'll learn how to prepare a few traditional Ecuadorian dishes. Enjoy this freshly made lunch, followed by coffee. Afterward, you will visit the equatorial monument Mitad del Mundo, where French scientists determined the position of the equator's line many years ago. Stop for dinner in a traditional restaurant, then stay overnight at your hotel in Quito.

Day 3: Shop at Otavalo Market & Visit Cuicocha Lagoon 

Cuicocha Lagoon
Cuicocha Lagoon

Today, visit Otavalo Market, one of the most important and traditional markets in all of South America. The region's indigenous people gather here to buy and trade everything from handicrafts to fresh vegetables and fruits. Take a stroll through the streets near the market and try some local street food, such as salted mango or fritada con mote (fried pork with cooked corn).

In the afternoon, hike around the crater lagoon of Cuicocha. On the trail, your guide will point out the high-altitude flora and fauna and explain the history of the once active volcano. In the evening you will return to Quito.

Day 4: Visit the Cloud Forest of Mindo 

A zip line in the Mindo cloud forest
A zip line in the Mindo cloud forest

This morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and drive you to the lush cloud forest of Mindo. This forest's location at the western slopes of the Andean highlands means mild temperatures and a lot of rainfall, which help nourish its incredible biodiversity. Once you arrive, you'll be able to see hundreds of different bird species, visit the butterfly garden, hike to beautiful waterfalls, or ride a zip line through the forest.

Later, take a tour of the nearby chocolate factory and learn how locally grown cacao beans are processed to create delicious candy. In the late afternoon, you'll head back to Quito.

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Day 5: Explore Cotopaxi National Park

Limpiopungo lake with Cotopaxi volcano in the background
Limpiopungo lake and Cotopaxi Volcano

Leave Papallacta this morning and head south to Cotopaxi National Park. Visit Lake Limpiopungo, located in the highlands, offering a spectacular view of Cotopaxi Volcano's gigantic cone. Lake Limpiopungo is home to a variety of birds and some wild horses, too. Go for a short walk around the lake to admire Andean plants and wildlife.

You'll reach a traditional hacienda just in time for lunch. Afterward, go for a scenic horseback excursion in the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano, explore the surroundings on a mountain bike, or just relax at the hacienda, where you'll spend the night. 

Day 6: Hike Around Quilotoa Lagoon 

A trail alongside Quilotoa Lagoon

Today you will visit a picturesque volcano lagoon, Quilotoa. Walk along the crater’s rim to enjoy the splendid view, or hike down a path to the crater lake. You'll also have the option to rent a mule for the excursion. In the afternoon, you'll continue to Baños. Choose one of several excellent restaurants near your hotel to enjoy a traditional Ecuadorian-style meal.

Day 7: Discover the Waterfalls & Landscapes of Baños

Pailón del Diablo
This morning, you will drive along the so-called Avenue of Waterfalls with a local guide. Traveling south from Baños, you will follow the Pastaza River on its way through the valley of the same name. Passing a number of waterfalls, you will reach the village of Rio Verde, where you will stop to visit the well-known waterfall known as Pailón del Diablo ("Devil's Cauldron").
 
Try zip-lining or canyoning, relax in the hot springs, swing high above the clouds at the Casa del Árbol — an activity that's hugely popular with kids —and enjoy a cup of coffee at Café del Cielo as you take in great views of Baños and the surrounding mountains. In the afternoon, you will return to Quito for one last overnight before the trip ends.

Day 8: Depart Ecuador - End of Trip

Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito
Plaza Grande in Old Town Quito

The trip ends today. Head to the airport in Quito to catch a flight out. Safe travels!

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Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ecuador? Check out these other Ecuador itineraries, with cultural trips, outdoor adventures, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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